Like many people I have been considering the jump from Windows to Mac for some time, actually about 3 years. And just like many of those people I said no, I just couldn’t afford to move away from Windows and lose out on so many applications that weren’t supported under OSX. When I say applications of course I mean games!
With Steve Jobs announcing at the 2005 WWDC that Apple would move to using Intel microprocessors by early 2006 the landscape changed dramatically. Within a short while we had Mac Mini’s, iMac’s, Macbooks and Macbook Pro’s all sporting Intel processors. While all this was happening Apple announced in April that they will release Boot Camp, a utility to allow you install & run Windows on a Mac. Then all my dreams came through and Apple announced the Mac Pro, their replacement for the Power Mac, on August 7th, 2006. This was what I was waiting for, a true powerhouse wrapped up in Apple clothing.
I placed my order in October after everything calmed down a little bit and received it on the November 15th. I remember sitting in work staring at the beautiful black box all day wishing I could get it home straight away. When I eventually got to leave work one thing struck me immediately, it was damn heavy, 19kgs (42lbs) in fact! However I manage to manhandle it into the car and rushed home.
So what did I order? I kept with the standard build and just upgraded a couple of items.
- Two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon “Woodcrest” processors
- 2GB Memory (667MHz DDR2 fully-buffered DIMM ECC) – Upgraded from standard
- ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB (2 x dual-link DVI) – Upgraded from standard
- 250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s 7200-rpm hard drive – Upgraded from standard
- 16x double-layer SuperDrive
- Apple OSX 10.4
- AppleCare Protection Plan (APP)
When I eventually got it out of box I was struck by a second revelation, quality. The build quality and attention to detail is outstanding. As I have built many systems myself I was used to using quality materials and spending time to to get everything just right. In fact the Mac Pro is the first off-the-shelf system I have ever purchased.
Opening the box reveals the Keyboard and a box containing the new Mighty Mouse, Manuals and OSX reinstallation DVD’s. Removing these and I can see the Mac Pro for the first time, albeit rapped up in padding. Given it’s handles the Mac Pro is simple enough to remove from the box. With a rising eagerness I remove the protective bag to reveal the machine in all its aluminum glory.
From every angle it is a quality build. The large Apple emblem on the side panels, the grill details on the front and back. The shear thickness of the aluminum used. Yes indeed, first impressions are good. I wonder what the inside looks like?
Well no point in waiting, releasing the latch located at the back I carefully removed the side panel. If I was impressed with the attention to detail of the outside nothing prepared me for what greeted me on the inside of this machine. I had already read many reviews and Apple’s own news releases on the Mac Pro so I was aware of the various tweaks that had been made, such as the Hard Drive housing and cable-less design, the covered CPU housing and Memory Riser Cards. But it is only when you see it in the flesh do you realise just how neat and carefully planned out it really is. Although the official specs don’t list the size of the power supply it appears to be a beasty taking up the top back half of the chassis behind the Optical Drives.
Some detailed inspection confirmed it was shipped with the ATI Radeon X1900XT I upgraded too. A card well capable of driving my 30″ Monitor. I play quite a few games and planned to get Boot Camp up and running and get some games installed under Windows XP. That cooling fan looked nasty though and could ruin my peace and quiet, but not to worry plans were afoot to fix that little glitch. I’ll follow up with how I got on with the upgrade at a later date.
Lastly, a quick inspection of the RAM cards confirmed the 2GB of memory I ordered. Apple chose to introduce a layout often found in Servers, by using Memory Riser Cards. This allows for a very efficient use of motherboard realestate while still allowing up to 8x memory modules, 4 on each riser.
That about raps up Part 1 of my review, I’ll focus on how it actually operates, including OSX in part 2 so stay tuned. As always please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or comments.